Investments into the future must be increased

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the EIT House with Education Commissioner Tibor Navracsics on Tuesday, the Finnish National Coalition Party’s MEP Henna Virkkunen demanded that all EU states invest more heavily into education and research.

A goal has been set for EU member states to raise their R&D budgets to at least three percent of their GDP. When reached, this goal would create approximately 3.7 million new jobs within the EU area and increase EU’s annual GDP by nearly 800 billion euros. At present time this three percent goal has only been reached by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.

– The set goal is that the EU should be the most competitive region in the world by 2020. This must not be forgotten and investments into the future must be increased, Virkkunen states.

The European Commission’s Innovation Scoreboard for 2017 shows that the EU’s ability to innovate has seen overall improvement in recent years, but the same development can also be seen elsewhere. Currently, development is fastest in China.

– Investing in research and innovation is the best answer to global competition. We can only compete internationally if we remain at the forefront of development. Simply funding research will not be enough, but we must also have an operating environment that encourages innovation in terms of regulations, markets and capital, says Virkkunen.

The EU research programme Horizon 2020 is to distribute nearly 80 billion euros of research and innovation funding by the year 2020.

– Internationality is one of the best ways of improving the quality of education, research and the innovation environment. The good results achieved with the Erasmus+ student exchange programme and the Marie Curie research staff exchange programme are testaments to this. An international exchange period should be included in all university degrees Europe-wide, says Virkkunen.

She considers the UK’s exit from the EU to be a major setback for the future of Europe’s education and research.

– Universities in the UK are very significant partners for the whole of Europe in both top-level research and the student and researcher exchange programmes. The unfortunate Brexit will now cast a cloud of unnecessary instability over the future of the European research space.

Virkkunen considers it desirable that the UK remains a partner of EU’s research and student exchange programmes.

– However, this is completely predicated on how successful the negotiations are. It is clear that the UK cannot be granted better terms outside of the EU than as a member, she says.

Henna Virkkunen, a MEP of the Finnish National Coalition Party, spoke at the opening ceremony of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) House in Brussels on Tuesday 26 September 2017. The European Parliament is also housing the Science is Wonderful! event on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the European Researchers’ Night on Friday.

Henna Virkkunen - Kokoomus